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THE HIDDEN ART OF DRAWING – REVEALED: JADA 2018

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Artists fill notebooks with drawings using a range of mark-making methods from burnt sticks (charcoal), lead and coloured pencils to ink pens and colour washes. These can be renderings that replicate the subject in ways that a camera might. They can be of details and juxtapositions of elements. Or they can be quick-made glimpses full of emotion and movement that come not so much from the subject itself but rather from the artist’s response to the inspiration created by what they witness.

Later in the artmaking process the artist retrieves these references and in the studio space with the grander media of canvas, metal or expanses of paper the drawing’s trace is carefully made and through the application of pigments applied by brush and palette knife or engraved, etched, inked and pressed. Here a ‘real’ artwork is made. Yet, underneath the final artwork the reference drawing resides – hidden.

 

The secret hidden ‘art’ of the artist’s drawing has for 30 years been the focus of the biennial Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award (JADA) at the Grafton Regional Gallery (GRG). In this award the drawing is revered not as an aide-mémoire for the artist’s later work but rather as the product of a deliberate creative and expressive artmaking activity.

 

The gallery has as it’s rationale for JADA and the GRG Drawing Collection the following statements:

The award seeks to encourage and promote innovation and excellence and plays a vital role in fostering Australian drawing practice.

The … collection exemplifies the developments and changing parameters of contemporary drawing since 1988. The collection explores the way that drawing resonates as a contemporary medium, demonstrating the relevance and strength of drawing. Works in the collection offer a varied and extensive overview of drawing ranging from highly resolved articulate works to spontaneous expressive works that are mostly retained on the conventional support of paper.

… the collection has attractively developed through the tastes, opinions and approaches of the various judges into a collection that is compelling, thought provoking, innovative, exuberant, and diverse.

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

For those interested in artists in their practice of drawing a visit to the GRG will reveal all. In 2018 fifty-five artworks were selected from 498 entries by a pre-selection panel of suitably qualified persons. The selection of the major JADA award as well as acquisitions for the gallery’s drawing collection were adjudicated by Anne Ryan, Curator of Drawing, Prints and Watercolours from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 

What is surprising in the JADA selection is the way in which the techniques and media of drawing the can lead to such a diverse and stimulating variety of artworks. There are works that:

  • Emulate photographs in their fine detail and tonal rendition
  • Are exquisite in the draughtsmanship expressed
  • Show the artist’s use of the drawing to ‘find the edge’ and give shape and form to the subject
  • The emergent use of computer software, digital output, and digital media animation screen presented time-based artworks
  • Express the textural nature of the drawing media on the receiving surface
  • The passing of time in a stilled framed work
  • Explore caricatures
  • Play with simple gestural lines and equally simple ideas

The winner of the $30k 2018 JADA award was Todd Fuller, a Sydney based artist with his work titled Ode to Clarence as described in the Gallery’s website as: a hand drawn and painted animation, created during a residency at Grafton Regional Art Gallery.

The work deals with the current issues in Grafton associated with the building of a new bridge connecting the city with the highway. Through a digitally presented narrative relating to the disruption to the community caused by the terraforming, street changes and house demolitions caused by the bridge building. The work is created as a continuous drawing in parts.

 

 

Some may question how this work is classified as a ‘drawing’ as we usually encounter a drawing as a static artwork in a notebook, on paper or in a frame. As such time-based digital media presentations and other such works present a challenge to the traditional paradigm. These digital media ‘drawings’ may be documentation of drawing projects or of performances commenting on the concept of drawing. As we know there is a significant history of animated drawings presented as moving picture films. It should also be acknowledged that documentation by video might also make visible a drawing work in transformation. Though it might be asked how do these works ‘fit’ with the term ‘drawing’? And when does a drawing cease being a ‘drawing’ and become a work in the discipline of animation or digital media?

Interestingly Fuller’s drawing work uses a technique similar to that used by the artist Blu in his famous street graffiti video documentary MUTO. Blu describes his work as:a seven minute animated mural.

Thoughts such as these will no doubt occupy the minds of many visitors to the JADA exhibition as it travels around the eastern seaboard over the next two years. Whatever the outcome for such thoughts ultimately JADA has provided an important biennial review and space for critical commentary and reflection on the discipline and has stimulated this enquiry. The award also reveals and makes visible the work of artists, it shares their stories and ideas through the discipline of drawing – perhaps the oldest of all human creative endeavours.

 

Dr Doug Spowart

With thanks to Dr Cooper for editorial support

 

JADA 2018 Grafton Regional Gallery installation

 

FOOTNOTE:

Other works acquired for the Grafton Regional Gallery Collection with their $10k allocation are:

  • David Fairbairn Portrait of T.J.K No 1, 
  • Kedal Gear Haze, 
  • Nicci Haynes Drawing Dancing (an animation),
  • Noel McKenna Silent Assassin and
  • Claire Primrose Assembled Landscape 3.

 

An illustrated catalogue of the JADA entries can be downloaded here: 2018_JADA_Finalists_Catalogue

Apart from the Gallery exhibition in late 2018 the JADA will tour regional galleries over the next two years to the following venues; Manning Regional Gallery, Hervey Bay Regional Gallery, University of the Sunshine Coast Gallery, Griffith Regional Art Gallery, Latrobe Regional Gallery and the Tamworth Regional Gallery.

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Text ©2018 Doug Spowart  Photographs of gallery ©2018 Doug Spowart. Copyright of artworks is retained by the artist
Many artworks have been photographed to show the nature of the framing and matting of the work.

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